Friday, 6 December 2013

Establishing your restaurant

Before you even think about an opening date for your restaurant, you need to sit down and work out a meticulous plan - a military operation isn’t planning enough!

Here’s a checklist which I use to help me sense check that the right plans are in place:
  • Are there any clauses in the lease which might be prohibitive to what you want to do with your business?
  • Have you secured the correct building regulations?
  • Have you applied for your drinks licence?
  • Do you have the correct health and safety certificates?
  • Will there always be a first aider on site?
  • Have you and your solicitor checked and understood all the legal documents?
  • Plus many other eventualities that may arise!

Once you’re satisfied that you have these procedures ticked off, your most important consideration will be what is it all about? Ultimately, in my opinion it has to be about money and if you want to survive the first few years never lose sight of this.

Maintain a humbleness and clarity of thought at all times, keep to your vision and don't be side-tracked by anyone or anything. 

However, as I mentioned in my last blog, you need to be prepared to make compromises so identify the areas which you are prepared to be flexible about.  This could be anything from the price of the paint on the walls to the tableware to the wine list. Knowing in advance what you’re happy to sacrifice will help you to maintain focus on the important things. 

When we first purchased Simpsons in Edgbaston it could have been a wine bar, bistro, brasserie or restaurant. The main priority was to make a profit, which is a good way to test your decisions. Fortunately we fully believed in what we were doing and soon found our feet. That was 20 years ago at the back end of a recession. 

Your team is your biggest asset so think about how you would like to be treated as an employee and what kind of boss you want to be.  If you plan to lead by example be prepared to clean up the toilet after someone has chucked up!  Draw on your experiences of the good and bad times and use this to influence your management style. You’re only as good as your staff; each member of the team needs to be thought about and nurtured every day.  

As a chef or restaurateur you want to be the best, set out your stall based on your experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s a US-style diner or a Michelin-starred restaurant, you need to be confident in your abilities and focussed on excellence. In my view, it’s best to stick to what you’re good at, don’t over complicate things.
At the end of the day, restaurants are straightforward enterprises - food is delivered at the back door, prepared by chefs in the kitchen and served to customers who enter and leave by the front door and pay on the day! It’s people who can make it difficult - staff and customers.  By appointing good people and relying on your network of helpful and reliable contacts you are well on your way to making your business a success. 

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